The Art of Virtue – The Essence of Community Service

Signing of the Declaration of Independence


Benjamin Franklin was a tremendous inspiration to me as a child.  I remember going to a re-enactment of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with my school mates as part of a celebration of the bicentennial of our great nation.  Two hundred years had passed since the drafting and execution of that momentous symbol of the underlying agreement of our Founding Fathers, but it felt like they were right there in the room with us.      

In my early twenties I came across Mr. Franklin’s “The Art of Virtue.” (for full text see  A short but powerful piece written to help him to accomplish a “bold and arduous Project of arriving at moral Perfection,” the thirteen virtues outlined serve as a wonderful and timeless guide for self-examination.  Mr. Franklin “determined to give a Week’s strict attention to each of the Virtues successively…” a recipe for refinement!  Here they are:    

1 . Temperance
Eat not to Dullness.  Drink not to Elevation.    

2. Silence
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself.  Avoid trifling Conversation.    

3. Order
Let all your Things have their Places.  Let each Part of your Business have its Time.    

4. Resolution
Resolve to perform what you ought.  Perform without fail what you resolve.    

5. Frugality
Make no Expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.    

6. Industry
Lose no Time.  Be always employ’d in something useful.  Cut off all unnecessary Actions.    

7. Sincerity
Use no hurtful Deceit.  Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.    

8. Justice
Wrong none, by doing Injuries or omitting the Benefits that are your Duty.    

9. Moderation
Avoid Extremes.  Forbear resenting Injuries so much as you think they deserve.    

10. Cleanliness
Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Clothes or Habitation.    

11. Tranquillity
Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at Accidents common or unavoidable.    

12. Chastity
Rarely use Venery but for Health or Offspring; Never to Dullness, Weakness, or the Injury of your own or another’s Peace or Reputation.    

13. Humility
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.    

Benjamin Franklin


No matter how busy you are, how many plates you’re spinning, balls you’re juggling, there is always an opportunity for improvement in the way you are carrying yourself.  Being a better person requires diligence, honesty and humility and remember, “you may delay, but Time will not.”  There is no better time than the present to develop your self.     

Though “…arriving at moral Perfection” is a heck of a BHAG (big, hairy audacious goal, see Jim Collins, your local community and our great nation is in great need of those who set a new standard devoid of the typical excuses such as “nobody’s perfect(!),” “what can one man do(?)” or “I’m just too busy.”  Our country was founded on greatness and will be sustained through greatness – not just of a rare individual here and there – but of a nation of individuals who reveal greatness in the little things as well as the large. 


2 thoughts on “The Art of Virtue – The Essence of Community Service

  1. Pingback: Benjamin Franklin Forever | Myownceo's Blog

  2. Josh Cannen

    Mr. Hake, I caught the Yahoo press release “Gregg Hake, CEO of Energetix, Embraces Social Media Offering Inspiration in Troubled Times” and am now following your personal and business blogs. As an organizational developer I am keenly aware of the difference between being a business entrepreneur in the traditional sense and embracing the new trend of “social entrepreneurship.” The later exists to promote the best possible life for all, drawing out the creativity of those around them and inspiring others to take up a vision that is beyond their previously displayed abilities, not just to personal but to global betterment. Benjamin Franklin is an essential mentor for anyone with this vision, and I appreciate the demonstration that his words are just as relevant in these times.


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